The Geographic Variation in the Cost of the Opioid Crisis

Alex Brill and Scott Ganz | AEI Economics Working Paper Series

As the opioid epidemic worsens in the United States, the toll it imposes on the US economy has risen to staggering heights. The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently estimated the economic burden, inclusive of the value of statistical lives lost, to be $504 billion in 2015. More narrowly constructed estimates find cost burdens as high as $95 billion in 2016.

We estimate per-capita state-level and county-level non-mortality and total economic burdens of the opioid crisis in 2015 by distributing national estimates based on variation in local wages, health care costs, and criminal justice costs along with variation in opioid-related death and addiction rates, and average age-adjusted value of statistical lives lost. Our findings indicate that among the lower 48 states in 2015, per-capita non-mortality costs were highest in the District of Columbia ($493) and New Hampshire ($360). Median per-capita non-mortality costs were $205 in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Per-capita total costs (including mortality costs) were highest in West Virginia ($4,378) and the District of Columbia ($3,657). Median per-capita total costs were $1,672 in Nevada.

Read Here